By Michael Cugley, Te Rito journalism cadet.
The Black Thunder national basketball team is preparing for the World Deaf Basketball Cup next year in Greece. The Black Thunder team completed two games over the past weekend in Palmerston North and Wellington competing against the Australian national deaf basketball team, The Goannas.
Captain Tuhua Taikato-Litz says he is excited about the challenge next year but needs to focus on his team.
“Ye,s I am confident, but my team isn’t, so I’ve got to help my team get confident and get excited".
The game is played in the same way basketball is normally played but careful consideration and awareness needs to be shown with referee calls, and plays made by coaches.
“It is difficult but we got to keep our eyes on the referee, my coaches - it’s very difficult,” Taikato-Litz says.
Black Thunder keeps on keeping on, looking to the World Cup in Greece next.
The two matchups also mark the 50th anniversary of Trans-Tasman Deaf Basketball, seeing fiery competition between the Black Thunder and the Goannas. However, Taikato-Litz and coach Tony Webster say the vision for the future is clear.
“Firstly, I’ve got to keep my team going so I think we’ve got to be role models for the younger deaf people so we can get them playing deaf basketball, deaf rugby so we can support the little deaf people,” Taikato-Litz says.
“I’d like to see more development programmes for deaf kids. I want to start coaching them at a younger age so when they get to the next level they’re ready for international basketball,” says Webster.
The Black Thunder team is scattered all across the country making it difficult to train together. Still, Taikato-Litz hopes to push the team ahead of the world cup competition in Greece next year.
“We've got to keep training but most of our players are from different cities. We have to keep them playing basketball in their own time so we can have a team together in the future,” Taikato-Litz says.